Infection prevention and control
Hand hygiene is critical to reduce the spread of infection.
Washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way of reducing the spread of infection. Where this is not possible, use alcohol-base hand rub.
You must regularly clean your hands with either soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. It's essential to clean your hands when entering and leaving areas where there's a person with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.
You must clean your hands immediately before every episode of direct care and after any activity or contact that could result in your hands becoming contaminated. This includes when you take off any personal protective equipment (PPE), decontaminate equipment and handle waste.
Step-by-step guide to hand hygiene
Before cleaning your hands:
- expose your forearms (bare below the elbows)
- remove all hand and wrist jewellery (a single, plain metal finger ring is allowed but should be removed (or moved up) during cleaning
- ensure fingernails are clean, short and that artificial nails or nail products are not worn
- cover all cuts or abrasions with a waterproof dressing
Technique for hand washing and rubbing is:
- using alcohol-based hand rub for routine hand hygiene
- hand washing with soap and water, including thorough drying, if hands are visibly soiled or dirty
- thorough hand drying
- hand washing must be carried out thoroughly and long enough to inactivate the virus, that is 40 to 60 seconds
Watch this video of the proper hand washing technique:
Sneeze and cough hygiene
Use this catch it, bin it, kill it NHS poster.
Help stop the spread of coronavirus by:
- using disposable, single-use tissues to cover your nose and mouth when sneezing, coughing, wiping and blowing your nose. Promptly dispose of used tissues in the nearest waste bin
- making sure you have tissues, waste bins (lined and foot-operated) and hand hygiene facilities available
- cleaning your hands (using soap and water if possible, otherwise, with alcohol-based hand rub) after coughing, sneezing, using tissues or after any contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects
- keeping your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Before you carry out any activity involving a person with suspected or confirmed coronavirus, you should assess any likely exposure. Make sure you wear PPE that provides adequate protection against the risks associated with the activity. All staff should be trained in the proper use of all PPE that they may be required to wear. Find more information about PPE in the health and safety section of this toolkit.
Staff uniforms or work clothes
If you've been in contact with a person with suspected or confirmed coronavirus and your employer has not provided a laundry facility, then take your uniform or work clothes home in a disposable plastic bag. Dispose of the plastic bag in your household waste bin.
Wash your uniform or work clothes:
- separately from other household linen
- in a load not more than half the machine capacity
- at the maximum temperature the fabric can tolerate, then ironed or tumble-dried
Read the arriving home safely infographic for further guidance and tips.
The general advice for everyone visiting a family home or working with children and families is:
- always ring ahead
- check if anyone in the family is ill or has symptoms
- check if they need anything/rearrange visit
- check that they are happy for you to come
- wash your hands thoroughly before you visit, and again afterwards
- carry disinfectant wipes or some soap and bottled water to do so as you leave and enter your car
- if transporting children or young people, have them in the back seat of the car and make sure to wash surfaces afterwards
- be mindful of the surfaces that you're touching and don’t touch your face (eyes, nose or mouth) in particular
- unless doing intense personal care, PPE probably won’t be appropriate
Speak to your manager if you or any of your team have particular health conditions that mean they're vulnerable.
Read the cleaning and disinfection guidance from Public Health England.
This guidance has been based on COVID-19: Guidance for infection prevention and control in healthcare settings, version 1.0.
Infection control e-learning
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